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Multibillion pound options revealed for Houses of Parliament revamp

The Houses of Parliament has revealed a range of scenarios for its forthcoming restoration, ranging in cost from £3.5 billion to £5.7 billion

The results of the options appraisal, carried out by a team including architects HOK, have confirmed that any major overhaul will cost at least £3.5 billion.

It sets out five scenarios, ranging from a ‘do minimum’ gradual approach, to making significant improvements in a single phase project. These include: a rolling programme of improvements over three decades; a partial decant of parliament while work is undertaken; and vacating the building fully during the restoration period.

At a glance: five main scenarios

Rolling programme
A rolling programme of works done around continued occupation of the Palace which would take a prolonged period.
Minimum timescale 32 years
Cost £5.7 billion

Partial move out (A - minimum overhaul)
A programme of works during which each House would in turn move out to a temporary location.
Minimum timescale 11 years
Cost £3.9 billion

Partial move out (B - revamp plus some improvements)
A programme of more extensive works during which each House would in turn move out to a temporary location.
Minimum timescale 11 years
Cost £4.4billion

Full move out (A - revamp plus some improvements)
A programme of works during which the Palace would be fully vacated.
Minimum timescale 6 years
Cost £3.5 billion

Full move out (B - revamp plus significant improvements)
A programme of more extensive works during which the Palace would be fully vacated.
Minimum timescale 6 years
Cost £3.9billion

The report shows that carrying out the minimum level of refurbishment, with parliament remaining in occupation, would take around 32 years with both chambers needing to be closed for between two to five years.  

The work could be carried out quickly if the two houses were to move out of the building in a staggered decent and the report predicts this would take around 11 years.

A full move out of the palace by both houses would take the least time and would avoid disruption to parliament from construction works.

This fantastic historical site is one of the world’s greatest buildings in its own right

In a joint statement the House of Lords and the House of Commons, said: ‘The restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster will be a major challenge facing Parliament in the coming years and is certain to be a matter of public interest.  The process to establish a Joint Committee, which will make recommendations to both Houses on how to proceed, is already under way.  It will be for the Joint Committee to decide how best to carry out its task.’

Programme director Richard Ware said: ‘This fantastic historical site, which has seen so much history, is one of the world’s greatest buildings in its own right. At the same time it is one of the busiest parliament’s in the world.’

Alex Bell, lead on the independent options appraisal and partner at Deloitte Real Estate, said: ‘Our analysis indicates that the Restoration and Renewal of the UK’s most famous building will be a challenging and potentially expensive exercise, but that it could also generate significant benefits to Parliament and the UK more widely.

He added: ‘Members and Peers face unenviable decisions, although recent mega-project success stories such as the Olympics and Crossrail demonstrates the UK’s capability to deliver such projects successfully.’

The appraisal was commissioned at a cost of £2m back in 2013 after a study showed that without significant work irreversible damage would be done to the 150-year-old building.

The grade I-listed Charles Barry-designed building, which has been home to the House of Lords since 1847 and the Commons since 1852 has had no major restoration since it was built and currently has an annual repair bill in excess of £30 million.

Earlier this year the BBC claimed that cracks had appeared in the Gothic, Thamesside icon and that the 1859 clock tower housing the Big Ben bell had started to lean by upto 18 inches. According to Bell the Palace has not had any significant downtime since 1950 and that current replacement engineering work is not keeping pace with the urgent need to upgrade electrical systems.

Asked if there was a significant risk of a failure of the building, including a power outage or flood, in the future Bell said: ‘There is a risk that the building could fail at any time, the risks are inherently uncertain. Some of the pipework is over 100 years old, there are 2km of tunnels with outdated equipment. You cannot replace the M&E quickly enough.”

According to Bell Parliament does not at present have a full fire-safety containment system recommended for historic buildings, which means that there is no guarantee that a fire in one part of the building would not easily spread throughout the whole of the palace. Bell added: “Members [of Parliament] have some very tought decisions to make over the coming months.”

The programme of work is expected to start before 2020.

Comment:

Christopher Costelloe, director of the Victorian Society
‘There will doubtless be much controversy over the projected costs of the building work. Whichever restoration option Parliament chooses, this exceptional building is simply too important for the work not to be carried out. The Palace of Westminster is not only the ‘mother of parliaments’ it is our equivalent of the Eiffel Tower – an international symbol of the UK. This report is an important step towards securing the future of this absolutely irreplaceable Grade I-listed world heritage site’.  

Readers' comments (2)

  • It would be cheaper to move it to Mars...and more popular.

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  • The redesign, or at least sprucing up the HP Sauce labels, will be an undertaking in itself, but not an opportunity to be missed.

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